On the Comeback Trail

UCSD’s softball team rebounded with back-to-back wins against Chico State after losing the first two games of a four-game series on Feb. 12 to Feb. 13. The Tritons hosted the Wildcats on their new field at RIMAC Arena, where they evened their record to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

According to head coach Patti Gerckens, the team set the right tone for the rest of the season and overcame weak spots in both their defense and offense.

“It’s important that we don’t want to fall behind early on in the season,” Gerckens said. “These two wins help us stay very competitive.”

In the first game, on Friday, UCSD’s offense struggled to push through any runs: Chico’s starting pitcher Kacie McCarthy pitched a complete 2-0 shutout. After allowing a run in the first inning, sophomore pitcher Camille Gaito pitched five shutout innings before giving up an insurance run to Chico in the final inning.

UCSD fared no better in the second game of the series, coming up short 6-7 despite a fierce rally in the seventh inning. The Tritons battled back from a 0-7 hole in the fourth with two runs in the fifth, thanks to consecutive hits by senior shortstop Mandi Eliades, junior outfielder Kris Lesovsky and senior catcher and team captain Nicole Saari.

Silenced in the sixth inning, UCSD’s bats heated up again as the Tritons loaded the bases. Hits from sophomore outfielder Kellin Haley, Saari, junior infielder Jennifer De Fazio and freshman infielder Nicole Spangler drove home four runs, but a groundout ended the rally with UCSD down one run.

Saari said Friday’s losses reminded the team to not take any opponent lightly — even one considered to be an easy win.

Photos by Daniel Caddell/Guardian

“It was a bad showing of our abilities, but our comeback shows we never give up,” Saari said. “We just need to come out more focused, and see every team as important to give us that extra competitive drive.”

The next two games served as the comeback UCSD needed.

Gaito’s complete game shutout on Saturday led the Tritons to victory. UCSD tallied a run in the first inning and tacked on three more in the sixth to claim its first win of the four-game series.

Junior infielder Katrin Gabriel ripped a single and stole third on Eliades’ sacrifice bunt. Gabriel would later reach home to give UCSD a 1-0 lead in the first inning. De Fazio’s two-run double down the left field line gave the Tritons three insurance runs to ensure a win, while Chico was unable to make any sort of comeback in the seventh inning.

After pitcher’s duels in the first and third games in the series, offense starred in the final meeting, as UCSD edged the Wildcats out 10-9.

UCSD lost momentum in the first inning but regained control in the bottom of the second. Chico put three runs on the scoreboard in both the first and second innings.

The Tritons responded in the bottom half of the second inning, sending seven players across home to take the lead 7-6. Lesovsky, Eliades and De Fazio scored the final three runs in the second inning off a Saari double to the left center.

“Our bats came alive today,” junior infielder Sarah Woofter said. “It shows that our team is full of fire and heart, even if we are down 0-6.”

Chico State took the lead back with three runs in the top half of the third inning but couldn’t score the rest of the way.

After the first two Triton pitchers struggled to halt the Wildcat offensive onslaught, Gaito took the mound and retired 16 of the 19 batters she faced, striking out four and allowing only three hits.

Trailing 9-8 in the bottom of the sixth, a double by All-American Lesovsky over the centerfielder, a sacrifice bunt by Saari and a single by Spangler gave UCSD the run needed to tie the game at 9-9. Freshman infielder Dyanna Imoto pinch-ran for Spangler — with a grounder from Haley — scored the winning run for UCSD, 10-9.

“We have the fight and heart to show that we want to win since it could have been a long game, but in the end it was going in our favor,” Gerckens said. “As a team, we need to play harder — with better defense — and execute more to make more consistent runs.”

UCSD’s two wins handed Chico State its first two losses of the season, making them 4-2 over all, and 2-2 in the conference.

The women will look to keep the ball rolling, and make improvements before their next two games against Cal State Bernardino on Feb. 17.

Readers can contact Yvonne Chow at [email protected].

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